Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging Basics for Parents of Classroom Bloggers

Recently, John D’Arcy and I co-hosted a CISPA parent information session about our new CDNIS Lower School blogs. New to CDNIS this year, a Wordpress platform is being used by all classrooms, teachers, Grade 5/6 students, parents, administrators and specialist teachers. It has been a huge learning curve, setting up individual access points, interconnected and open to all participants, to form a massive collective community of learners. Now the entire Lower School community can access and participate within this virtual area for enhanced communication and sharing of learning, achievements and general school news. The 5D DISCO blog is a great 'jumping in' point! 
If you weren’t able to make it to the presentation, you can view my presentation PREZI file below and please feel free to ask your own questions here in the form of a comment. I look forward to hearing more from you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Students: as Children, as Gamers, as Leaners

Children are engaged when they game. Children revel and excel at play. Children enjoy fair competition. Children love to learn.
Students aren't allowed to game. Students rarely get to play. Students are discouraged from being competitive. Students disregard learning.

When did playing a game, refining one's skills, honing self-awareness and challenging one's personal best somehow begin to be seen as non-synonymous with learning? When children play challenging games, in the physical or the virtual world, they are exemplifying an authentic love of learning.

As educators, we are responsible for creating 21st century learning environments for our students and ourselves. This climate must be real. We must stop calling the world outside of school, the real world. We need to acknowledge the attachment children have to gaming, encourage it and start to understand that it is reflective of a passion for challenge, growth and continued learning. Let gaming invade your classroom!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Student Portfolios & Learning Reviews

It's that time of year again, the first time our students take home their beloved red binders to share their learning with their families. Last year, our school piloted an alternative assessment and reporting strategy which included compiling portfolios of student learning throughout the year. The main idea is that this red binder can more authentically represent a student’s growth and development over a grade level year, when compared to a traditional report card.

In my classroom, key elements for developing these portfolios include:

  • Student ownership and investment
  • Awareness of progress and development
  • Demonstration of knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Communication in the form of written feedback between teacher, student and parents
  • Reflection of the student as a learner, fostering metacognition
  • Celebration of achievements, abilities and strengths
Here is a video that I produced as an informative tool for families going through this transition from traditional reporting to what I believe is a more authentic and realistic representation and assessment of a child's learning over time.

Three-way learning reviews include parents + student + teacher and focus on a discussion of the child's strengths and accomplishments. A highlight is setting goals for the upcoming reporting period and possibly for the rest of the year. This goal-setting task is not easy, but as we develop these habits over time, I have begun to observe students' understanding and conceptualization of their own learning styles, strengths and needs. Students who are in control of their learning are ultimately more empowered to challenge themselves and develop confidence in who they are as learners.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

School Music Videos

My first introduction to making music videos with students was watching the delight that Mr. Malkin took in editing and creating Paleta with at Colegio Bolivar in Cali, Colombia. This video, you'll notice, has more than 33 thousand views!

Since becoming a homeroom teacher myself, I have made a point of having a class song each year. It must be a song that we can all learn the lyrics, one which we appreciate because it has a meaningful message and that hopefully we find very fun to sing along to. Working with Gr. 5 means that I need to be careful in my song selections (possibly a little more careful than Mr. Malkin was back in 2005 when he let his Gr. 9 students choose a Daddy Yankee song with scandalous lyrics and pretty inappropriate innuendoes).

In 2008-2009 my class, The 5E Explorers, memorized and recreated, Michael Jackson's We Are The World That was a blast! In 2009-2010 we learned the Black Eyes Peas' song, Where Is The Love? And although we never actually made a final production, we often had fun taking pictures and even recorded a few clips throughout the school of us reenacting the original video. In general we listen to and watch music videos at least once a week for most of the school year in Grade 5.

For this year, the 5D DJs haven't chosen a song yet and I'm not sure that we'll really have time to make a music video, but I have a couple songs in mind if we do get around to it.

Today in class we watched a wonderfully creative video-off. The following videos were produced by film classes in rival high schools in Seattle, Shorewood and Shorecrest, as a sort of video battle. First, Shorecrest created their version of Hey Ya!

Then, Shorewood responded to the challenge with this, 

Both videos, playing with lipdub and reverse video techniques, included almost the entire school body. I think it's pretty entertaining stuff, these energetic and enthusiastic student-centered videos. If the effects don't quite make sense to you, or you're not sure why these videos are amazing, then watch this video, which shows behind the scenes of the Shorecrest video, explaining how was originally filmed (with the leads walking backwards) and also with some filmer commentary that also might help to make more sense of it.

Of course, these videos circulated like crazy about a year ago and created a buzz of excitement. Schools everywhere wanted to join in the fun, boost school-wide spirit and be famous on the internet! Some schools responded with videos of their own, not done in authentic reverse video style, but in a way parodying this new genre of teenage hit project, sometimes termed the "Hall Rock" (this is actually a really great example of reverse video made by CLC (Communications Learning Community) high school program).

Today in Gr. 5, after showing these 2 clips and attempting to explain (somewhat unsuccessfully) to 10-year olds, exactly what these videos involve from a filming and editing perspective, one of my students showed me this little beauty.

I am pretty sure that I had a lot more fun watching this than my students did, mostly because they can't quite conceptualize exactly what the backwards choreography entails. I think it's just plain amazing!